A Cinematic Book

We made the quarterfinals of the ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition!

Just got the word that we made the quarterfinals of ScreenCraft’s competition for “cinematic” books, which means readers could see this as a movie.

There are a lot of great books that wouldn’t make good movies. To be made into a movie, a book needs a visual language. Long ago, we took a series of classes from Dale Wasserman, who wrote the play “Man of La Mancha.” He wrote the “book” of the play (as opposed to the music and lyrics — although he maintained some of the lyrics were lifted from his text). He also wrote for film and tv as well as theater.

He said that books are the most literate art form, then plays, then film, then tv. It wasn’t an insult — it’s just that film and tv are more dependent on visuals than language. Language matters in film and tv, but first, you have to have pictures.

Mark and I have placed in screenwriting contests, and Mark writes in pictures. He’s good about prodding me to look at what I’m writing and think about what it looks like. “It’s a movie in the reader’s head,” he told me one time. “When I read, I see it and hear it.” Plus, he trained me in producing for radio, where creating mental pictures is what it’s all about.

In part because of Mark, my writing gets more and more visual. I like words — but I see that the words have to do more than be clever. They have to carry emotion and information, and create pictures.

Lots of writing is just you alone with your thoughts and your computer (or notebook, or…). I talk to myself when I’m writing, wondering if anyone but me will understand what I’m trying to convey. There’s no way to tell until someone reads it. First we had beta readers, then did live readings, and at every stage, examined what was working and what wasn’t. Now we’re sending it out. It’s a terrifying process and every time a reader says they enjoyed it, and tells me what connected with them, I want to cheer.

There are far more words in a novel than in a screenplay. And as my friends can tell you, I can talk like nobody’s business (especially when I’m nervous. In one important situation, a friend cautioned me, with affection, “Don’t babble!”). I overwrite and then have to cut like the villain in a slasher film. There’s always a struggle to cut what is “extra” without taking all the juice out of it.

To know that the ScreenCraft readers, who have never met me and don’t know what I sound like, “hear” and “see” this novel is a joy. Congratulations to my fellow Quarterfinalists, and to everyone who completed a novel they were proud enough of to enter it in a competition — that’s a big achievement right there.

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Presidential Pen Pal Dear Donny: Happy (?) New Year

January 9, 2019

Dear Donny:

How’s your new year starting out? Out here in the real world, you know, where un-famous people live, things are very confusing.

First off, there’s this government shutdown. I have to ask… before you were sworn in, did anyone tell you what “job #1” is for people in D.C.? In case they didn’t… it’s keeping the government up and running. Didn’t anyone give you a pamphlet or something when you took the job?

I read that this is the second-longest government shutdown in our history. Donny, please tell me you aren’t keeping this up because you want to be number one! This is a contest with no prize, sweetie. If you win a race to jump head-first into the outhouse, nobody envies you.

The people who are telling you to keep this up must be… I hate to call anyone “stupid,” but… “thinking challenged.” The reason we have a federal government is that it’s too time-consuming to do all the stuff that needs doing by ourselves. If you drive somewhere to get to work, you don’t have time to surface the road yourself on the way. Of course, you live where you work, and someone has always driven you around, but… look, Donny, if the roads aren’t maintained, your chauffeur can’t get you to the golf course.

While a quarter of our government is MIA, those things that need doing don’t get done. Farmers have trouble getting the subsidies they were counting on, people trying to get loans to buy houses have to wait, and garbage stacks up in the national parks.

I realize you don’t exactly visit our national parks. When I try to picture you, Melania, Ivanka and the rest camping, or sitting around roasting hot dogs, it’s pretty funny, but lots of people really do that. Spring is almost here. You’re leaving the national parks to illegal pot farmers and letting things pile up in the trash cans and porta-potties. Not the legacy you want, “Trump 2020 – If You Go To A Park, Bring Your Hazmat Suit!”

And whoever told you that federal workers support you holding them, and their families, hostage in return for that wall (oh Donny, that wall! You need another hobby, honey) was… look, I know you can be, let’s say… creative… with the truth now and again, but the person who told you those people are happy to be without their paychecks is nuttier than a squirrel turd.

TSA agents, for example, who can’t afford to work for free have to call in sick and do something else for money. You can’t blame them, but how does that help national security? I’m sure you’re not taking a single cent of your pay, since the only reason the government is limping is that you put a rock in its shoe, then stepped on its foot. But lots of people can’t afford to go without a paycheck.

Anything that’s bad for the economy of workers is probably bad for the economy as a whole. That makes sense, right? They’ve adjusted the GDP down. That’s how good all of this is for the economy. And the effects take time to repair. When you slow something as big as the economy of the United States, it doesn’t get back up to speed overnight.

All for that wall. That infamous, imaginary, ridiculous wall… Donny, if you want something silly that won’t achieve what you’re trying for, let us buy you a new toupee. We’ll buy you a truckload of them. Nicer than you have now. Honey, how can someone who says he has great taste put a rug on his head that looks like someone found a way to grow mold on a basketball? Is your eyesight going? Even if we bought you a new toupee for every day of the year, then bought one for every man, woman, child and pet hamster in the country, it would be a lot cheaper and accomplish just as much. Mexico might even chip in for that. We’ll make all of them blonde. If every person in the United States was blonde, you’d love that, admit it.

Here’s something else I’m wondering… when the government is out of business, are you still President? That’s sort of like being the Emperor of Nothing. Grand Poobah of Doo-dah.

And Donny, all of this won’t make people forget about the Mueller probe. It just won’t. Lighting fires doesn’t help divert attention if there’s already a Fire Marshall staring at you.

Promise you’ll think about those toupees, Donny. They’d be really nice ones with extra-strong adhesive. I promise.

Your Pen Pal

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Goodbye, 2018!

This has been a year, hasn’t it? I mean, they all are, of course, but this one seems to have had more than 12 months in it.

We had to spend the first eight months fighting to protect our little family. Someone got it into her head to try to take our puppy away from us. Lots of drama, strangers being sent to our door, the police sent to our house (first time that’s happened), going to court… in the end, Good won, Evil lost, and Gingeroo is right where she belongs — with us.

It chewed up months of our lives. Our birthdays, our anniversary, everything got swallowed by The Battle For Gingeroo. But in the end, we found out we have a few really good, true friends who were willing to help us, we met an absolutely genius lawyer, and we reaffirmed that Good can triumph, if it’s willing to keep fighting and take good advice.

We finished our novel, and saw it getting favorited on Amazon’s new book program, so much so that it made the “hot list” several times — but then Amazon ended the program. Oops! Back to square one, so we’re shopping for an agent, while writing three new books. Meanwhile, the first novel has done well with beta readers and in live readings, in addition to the love it got during the Amazon program, and a great review. So we know there’s an audience and just have to keep plugging away.

During the process, we’re learning a lot about querying, social media, all the stuff that comes with being an author. We’ve been writers (magazines, newspapers, radio), but now we’re becoming a brand. Which feels odd. And requires learning lots of new skills, which is actually more fun than I thought it’d be.

We lost two of our friends at the same time, people who had never met but who both left our lives at almost the same moment. This is an experience I’ve had before — my mother and grandmother died 30 days apart — but is also one for which you can’t prepare. We’ve lost people slowly, and lost them quickly, and there is no “better” way. You’re never ready to lose someone you’re fond of. It still doesn’t seem quite real that both John and Kathleen are gone.

But we’re taking what they’ve taught us into the world. Kathleen was an enthusiastic, generous person. She loved to shop. I’m not much of a shopper, so I don’t have the skills a talented shopper has. Kathleen was great about sharing tips and tricks. I recently used some things she taught me to score something Mark and I wanted, on clearance, free shipping… Kathleen would have understood why I was trying to “high five” myself (for the record, I still haven’t found a way to do it that doesn’t feel lame).

John was a singer/songwriter, a musician and music producer. Music was his life, and he was really good at it. He was also funny, generous and kind. Even when illness was bringing him to his knees, he played benefit concerts. If he couldn’t play, he sang. Every holiday season, we would visit and join John and his wife (a lovely, fierce, wonderful lady who hadn’t planned to be a public person but fell in love with John, so I won’t put her name here) for dinner. Mark and John usually talked shop — music, audio, recording. They agreed about a lot, but had some things they didn’t agree on that became running gags.

His wife and I would catch up on family and friends, and just, y’know, chat, the way you do with a friend. Mark and I would get tickets for the benefit John was sure to be playing, and the shows were always great, but the best memories are of the four of us around a table, eating and talking.

One time, we went to Barton G’s in Hollywood. It was hilarious. They brought out the food with props. Popcorn shrimp in a big popcorn machine. Sushi with a sword stuck into the platter. The best were the desserts. John and his wife ordered an ice cream sundae that came in a pirate’s treasure chest (a big one), surrounded by edible gold nuggets, graham cracker crumb “sand.” John looked at the shovel sticking out of the sundae, started laughing, and said, “Do we eat the shovel? I can’t tell what’s food and what isn’t!”

Our dessert had a cotton candy bouffant hairdo on a wig head, with candy stuck all over it. The four of us found ourselves acting like sharks, nibbling random things just to see if they were edible.

Before we left, they invited us over and we met the sister of John’s wife, who was charming. John played tracks of songs he was working on and told scandalous stories, and we all just relaxed.

Thinking about all of this has me more than usually aware that I need to be fully present when I’m with a friend. Not distracted by things I want to get done, or things I think I should be doing. Someone once said, “If you ain’t where you is, you ain’t nowhere.” I’m going to try to be where I am in the new year.

I hope wherever you are, your “where” is good to you. Happy New Year!

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If Your Holiday Isn’t Living Up To The Hype This Year:

An open letter to anyone whose holidays isn't quite living up to the hype.
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Gimp On The Go

Travel Tips from a Disabled Traveler

My rented scooter, decked out for the holidays (and theme park safety).
Pride vs. Safety

When I go to a theme park, I have to use an ECV (electronic scooter). I see a lot more of them in the parks, and a lot more near-misses and accidents. Often, this is because people don’t see you when you’re in a wheelchair or ECV. How can they miss you? Because there’s so much to look at.

A theme park is a case of sensory overload, especially at the holidays. Lights flashing, decorations, brightly-colored rides and attractions all distract people walking through the park. Add to that the new park apps that have visitors looking at their phones even more than they were already, and you have a recipe for disaster.

I’ve had a lot of incidents in the past. Once, a woman was backing up to take a photo, not looking behind her (where I was sitting, still, in my ECV). She toppled into my lap, glared at me, and shouted, “Watch where you’re going!” She had no idea I was there.

And people abandon any of the traffic or pedestrian rules they use outside of the park. They stop suddenly, change directions without looking, cut in front of you… their brains are overloaded, overtired and overstimulated.

The worst are the ones who play “chicken.” They see you, but they want to go around you, or cross in front of you, so they glance your way and dart out, not making eye contact. They don’t realize that most ECVs (especially rented ones that are often not in peak condition) don’t stop on a dime. Or a quarter.

One I had was supposed to apply its brakes as soon as I quit pushing on the switch to make it go, and it did… after rolling backward about three feet. Another, when I started it, leaped forward, ignoring the speed it was set to.  Yet people would run across my path, or crowd the back of the scooter, leaving me to yelp at them to get out of the way before they got hurt. Often, the are trailing their little kids behind them. Mom or dad gets clear, but the kids are lucky to escape intact.

First, I added a bicycle horn. Mark and I stood around, honking horns, until we found one that sounded sort of like Harpo Marx. My horn has an irreverent, cheerful toot. Even so, many people resented it when I sounded my horn to let them know they were about to trip over me. This year, since we were headed to the parks during the holidays, I added decorations, and jingle bells. This turned out to be the magic combo.

We bought plastic and tinsel wreaths from a dollar store, outdoor ribbon, and large, jangly bells, packed in my suitcase with plastic zip ties and strings of outdoor-safe, battery-operated lights. Once we picked up the scooter at the hotel, we attached all of these with zip ties, including a dangling ring of jingle bells. Whenever I needed to let people know I was there, I jingled the bells.

It worked like a charm. One man, talking on his phone while walking through a crowded park, almost fell over me without noticing I was there. I jingled the bells and he looked around, spotted me, realized he was about to trip over me, and apologized. “Thanks! I didn’t even know you were there until I heard the bells!” He apologized and we parted on good terms.

I made it through six theme parks without an accident. A couple of near misses from people who clearly saw me and still ran in front of me, but for the most part, it worked great. At night, I turned the lights on. People smiled when they saw me, told me how much they liked seeing the decorations.

One little girl, about four years old, spotted me and grinned. “I love it!,” she told me. “I love you!” She then ran forward to show me to her sisters.

I’m an introvert, so calling attention to myself non-stop for almost two weeks was exhausting. It’s like traveling with a celebrity. People said nice things, and smiled, and I smiled back, even if I was tired. It was worth it. Very few negative interactions and many positive ones. And no accidents.

Did I feel silly? Sure, quite often. But I also was able to get through crowds in a reasonable amount of time, and without  unpleasantness.  If the choice is safety or dignity, I don’t mind looking a little silly.

And it’s great not to have strangers falling on me. Makes for a much better trip. Now the bells and such are back in my suitcase, ready for next time. Happy holidays!

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Welcome to IdeaJones.com

Articles, radio stories, ads, columns, corporate communications, novels or scripts – we’re never short of ideas. You can see some of our designs in our Redbubble shop.


Joey Jones is the published author and editor of many newspaper and magazine articles, radio stories, advertisements and commentaries, and has ghostwritten everything from speeches to love letters. She is a past Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting semifinalist and Fade In: Screenwriting Awards quarterfinalist. She also gathers sound and conducts interviews as a freelance field producer in the Sacramento area, and her on-air performance as “The Dying Fish” can be heard in the Water Education commercial series.

Mark Jones makes a living producing radio shows (like Connections on Capital Public Radio’s Music Station). As Martin Jenkins, he’s heard weekday evenings on CapRadio’s four news stations, and Sunday mornings on 91.3FM KUOP Stockton/Modesto. Mark has also sung, acted and directed local theater and TV.


We’re about the story. Whether it’s the facts and figures of nonfiction, or the deeper truth of fiction, we want to find just the right words, sounds, and/or images to get it across.

We’re also about the process. “Do the work right, and on time.” Life’s too short to make things harder than they have to be.


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The Presidential Pen Pal: Robot Presidents

(Every so often, Donald J. Trump emails me – or his family, or his staff, and one time, his building. Being a polite sort, I started to answer. Usually, they ask for money. Instead, I send my thoughts and prayers. Who wouldn’t want to be the pen pal of the President of the United States?)

It was weird at Whee World, Donny.

Dec. 19, 2018

Dear Donny:

I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch. We went on vacation. Not to our exclusive golf course, like you do (we don’t have one… it would be nice, though. Most golf courses are like big parks with occasional holes in them and very tiny beaches). We went on the sort of vacation lots of people go on. We went to theme parks.

Which brings up an uncomfortable subject. But because I’m your friend, I have to tell you. If you had toilet paper stuck to your shoe, or your breath smelled like you ate a road-killed skunk, it would be my responsibility to let you know,even though it was awkward, right? So this is like that.

We went to a theme park… let’s call it Whee World. They have this thing with robot presidents. It’s cooler than it sounds. A little history presentation (if you get a chance, you really should watch it. Some guy once said that people who don’t pay attention to history get to do it all over again, or something like that), then robots of the presidents make little speeches. Well, some do. There have been a lot of presidents. Really it’s the big ones that get to speak. Washington, Lincoln, one of the Roosevelts, I think… anyway, you’ll be happy to know that you’re one of the ones that talks.

It was a bit of your inauguration speech. As speeches go, it was okay. Less “four score and seven years ago,” and more “sales figures for the first quarter look to be up over this same time last year.” And your robot looks a bit odd. Like a circus clown who had to go onstage before he finished all of his makeup. It’s not that it didn’t look like you. Really, Donny, it’s time to stop using the tanning bed. You’re a very pale white guy. Make your peace with it. Anyway, it was interesting to see the reactions in the audience as each president was announced. Big cheers for Washington and Lincoln, of course, but also for JFK, Teddy Roosevelt and FDR. A nice round of applause for Obama. You’ll be glad to know you got some applause, too…

also some hearty laughter and a fair number of boos. You were the only one to get that reaction, Donny. Maybe because that was the day that it came out that people you hired said you let Russia influence our elections. They said you directed it. And there are questions about how involved you still are with your businesses, allegations that you trade influence for money.

This toilet paper isn’t stuck to your shoe, Donny. It’s hanging out of your pants like a tail, and everyone can see it.

Donny, lots of people want to believe you didn’t do it, or didn’t understand what you were doing when you let a foreign government influence the outcome of our election. But if you didn’t understand what you were doing, why didn’t you? If you hired someone who didn’t know anything about the business, and then he didn’t work his butt off to learn everything he needed to know, and he let somebody steal from the company because they somehow fooled you into hiring him, then he told you he didn’t know enough about his job, or the business, to realize that was a problem, you’d fire him, wouldn’t you? And probably call the cops on him.

Donny, it’s Christmas time. New Year’s Day is right around the corner. A time for new beginnings. Endings can be beginnings, too. Off with the old and on with the new, and all that. It’s time to retire. Just because I can’t think of a sitting U.S. President who ever decided to just quit doesn’t mean it isn’t an option. There’s no shame in quitting something if you really aren’t good at it. It’s just not for you.

I hate seeing you digging yourself into a deep hole, then trying to get out of it by digging it deeper. You won’t do well in jail, Donny, and the way you’re going, jail might be your most attractive option. But if you retire? Maybe, just maybe, if you tell them all you know about how it happened, so they can do something to reduce the chance of it happening again, and tell your family and staff to tell all they know, it’s just possible you’ll be allowed to retire, so long as you stay out of politics.

You’ve been threatening to shut down the government if you don’t get billions for that wall you want so much, the one that you promised Mexico would pay for. Everybody knows you’re really only harping about it because you hope to distract them, but Donny, it won’t work. If you set fire to the house, you can’t keep people from noticing by pointing at the mailbox. They’ll still notice the house is on fire.

You’ll be glad to know that the Mueller investigation is paying its own way, at least. It’s cost $25 million so far, (the Ken Starr investigation of the Clintons cost over $70 million, and didn’t make it back – that’s the way these things usually go). So far, they’ve gotten the crooks to agree to pay over $40 million. So don’t worry about the cost. We might even make a few dollars off the whole thing.  As a businessman, I knew you’d like that.

At the very least, it’s not costing us anything yet, and is likely to be far less expensive than the Starr investigation. It’s possible they won’t ask you to return the money you got for anything shady you’ve done, if you tell them everything and go home quietly. Try to look repentant, Donny. Prison is, so I hear, very uncomfortable.

Wishing You An Un-incarcerated Christmas,

Your Pen Pal

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